Sunday, February 14, 2016

Nino, We Knew You Too Well

The death of Antonin Scalia yesterday left me remarkably speechless.  It took a night of turning the event over in my mind before I could write about it.

Because he was so obviously going to be rattling his cage with the Supremes forever, it was inevitable that I would have from time to time imagined his death as the only likely way to move the Supreme Court forward.  There, I said it.

He may be a larger than life evil figure to me, not just because of his power, but because we are both full-blooded Italians.  Scalia more than fulfilled the stereotype I grew up with of Italian men.  He was a mafioso with an Ivy League education.  He was convinced that he was the smartest person in the room, and held contempt for those who he saw as beneath him.  Which was most of us.

He was rigid and held to simple and self-serving philosophies.  Calling himself an originalist, he was a proud founding member of the Federalist Society.  However, as with all obsessively rigid people, Scalia could blatantly hold a conflicting opinion if it served his interest, and wholeheartedly deny the conflict.  He condemned activist judges, except, of course, when it was him.  Because he was always right.

He was best friends with Justice Ginsberg, a friendship which totally flummoxes me.  We've all heard of warring attorneys enjoying after-hour friendships.  But I can't imagine someone as moral as Ginsberg being able to stick all that in a compartment so she can enjoy a glass of wine with Nino.  I have imagined that he must have enjoyed having all those women on the bench of late.  Not because he valued their opinions, but because he could engage in flirtatious sparring with intelligent female opponents.  What fun!

I do believe though, that as Obama's appointees became more influential, and at times he was even abandoned by fellow right wingnut Chief Justice Roberts, Scalia's narcissistic wit began to deteriorate.  Loose associations having to do with broccoli and his most recent failure to self-censor his racism suggest that Scalia was not quite as clever as his self-promotion made him out to be.  Perhaps it was the inevitable legalization of gay marriage that pushed his homophobic old mind over the edge.  In fact, it was after the DOMA decision that Scalia told an interviewer that the devil is real:

Have you seen evidence of the Devil lately?
You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.
It’s because he’s smart.

Scalia was "Despicable Me" with less charm and more power.  He was not at all embarrassed at his conflicts of interest during his time on the bench because, after all, he was right.  He was indeed above the law, which is a scary position for one of the most powerful jurists in the land.

After a good night's sleep I find that it will be easier to accept the absence of Scalia.

It will come as no surprise that Mitch McConnell has already said that a new justice should not be appointed until after the election.  He would have said the same thing if Scalia had died two years ago.  Senate republicans have routinely chosen to leave seats vacant during Obama's presidency in the hope of filling them with more desirable right-wing candidates after the presidential election.  This has left a shameful backlog in the courts, but, hey, it's not about justice, it's about politics -- and power.

So for at least a year we will have an eight-member Supreme Court.  This will no doubt mean a lot of 4-4 decisions, meaning no decision.  Which I see as an improvement over the status quo.

I worry though.

I worry about how hard Ruth Bader Ginsberg is taking the loss of her friend.  To be honest, it's not completely motivated by empathy.  I worry about her health.  We need her more than ever now.

I worry about Clarence Thomas.  What on earth is he going to do without his buddy to hide behind, and say all the horrible things Thomas would like to say if he wasn't so bottled up with rage?

The ground shifted a little for me when I heard the news last night.  But I imagine the earth shifted a bit more for those remaining eight members of the most exclusive and sheltered club in all of this country.

We have survived a do-nothing Congress, and in fact, were better off for it.  Perhaps the remaining Supremes will just hang in and bide their time for a year or more as well.

As for Antonin Scalia, his last day on earth was spent at a friend's ranch, doing what he most enjoyed, hunting down and taking shots at the smaller and weaker among us.   

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